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The world of football has many pitfalls for young players and, as the self-styled Academy, West Ham United know that more than most.

Hammers fans have lost count of the number of exciting talents coming through the academy down the years who never end up fulfilling their potential in the first-team for one reason or another.

Labelled the ‘new Rio Ferdinand’ Reece Oxford has gone from one of the hottest prospects in European football to the Hammers scrapheap in the space of three seasons, if a report from Football London that the club are looking to offload the youngster is accurate.

And Oxford’s is a cautionary tale for any young player looking to make their way in the Premier League.

Oxford shot to prominence when he made his debut with a midfield masterclass in a 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates in the opening game of the 2015/16 season aged just 16.

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He found game time hard to come by after losing his man twice in a home game against Leicester City which ended in a 4-3 defeat and, apart from a couple of cameos in the Europa League qualifiers, Slaven Bilic was reluctant to use him.

A loan spell at Reading failed to work out and he was sent on loan to Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga.

Oxford slowly found his feet there but hardly set the world alight, and he allegedly did not want to come home back in December when David Moyes activated the mid-season break clause as he set about keeping the Hammers in the Premier League.

Speculation was rife over the 6ft 5 teenager’s future for much of last season, with reports in the likes of the Mirror that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho was one of a clutch of managers at Europe’s top clubs keen on securing his signature.

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Talk was put to bed when the youngster signed a long term deal with the Hammers, which was expected to see him fast tracked into an ageing West Ham defence.

But here we stand with Oxford available for a reported £10 million after West Ham spent over £30 million on two centre halves – Issa Dip and Fabian Balbuena – and new boss Manuel Pellegrini linked to two more in Diego Reyes (Sky Sports) and Croatia star Domagoj Vida (talkSPORT).

Fans will all have their own opinions on where things have gone wrong for Oxford.

 

Some may feel he has been harshly treated, others may think he has had too much too soon and lost his way as a result.

Too big for his boots perhaps or maybe he just hasn’t developed to the level everyone thought and hoped he would?

But the beginning of his demise could perhaps be charted back to two years ago.

They say the best players are the ones who always strive to be better and never believe they are the finished article.

And while it is great to have ambition and confidence, Oxford’s comments on signing a big contract with the Hammers suggested he was getting a bit carried away.

“Hopefully I can progress now,” Oxford told whufc.com at the time.

Photo: Mark Thompson /Allsport

“Seeing the old players here, the likes of Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, I just want to follow in their footsteps and hopefully I can be as big as them or maybe even bigger.

“I want to be a part of the squad and help the club challenge for silverware by winning the FA Cup or Europa League – winning a trophy would be great. My long-term ambitions are to be captain of West Ham United one day.”

Some will see it as arrogance, others supreme confidence, but Oxford’s failure to break into the team under three very different managers in Slaven Bilic, David Moyes and now Pellegrini points to a more fundamental issue.

It may be that Oxford has to leave and be brought back down to earth before he can move forwards with his career.

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